Your immune system recognizes and attacks anything different from the substances normally present in your body, even those only slightly different, like your newly transplanted kidney. The immune system does not discriminate between harmful substances, like bacteria, fungi and viruses, and transplanted organs — so your immune system responds to your new kidney as a foreign substance that needs to be eliminated.
To protect your new kidney, we prescribe a variety of medications to suppress your body's natural immune response. These medications are called "immunosuppressants," and they trick the immune system into believing that your new organ is not foreign, and thus it is not attacked. After transplantation, you will be taking immunosuppressant medications for the rest of your life.
The key to maintaining a successful transplant for the rest of your life is taking the immunosuppressant medications prescribed to you. Initially it may seem a little overwhelming, but in time you will become very comfortable with the routine. It is important to take your medications as you are instructed. We want you to become responsible for taking your own medications. We also encourage children to be involved in taking their own medications.
Because you are responsible for taking your own medications, talk with your physician, pharmacist, or nurse until you fully understand:
- When to take each medication
- Name and purpose of each medication
- How to take each medication
- How long to continue taking each medication
- Principal side effects of each medication
- What to do if you forget to take a dose
- How and when to order more medicine so you won't run out
Guidelines for Taking Medications
- Always take your medications at the same time every day.
- Never skip a dose. If you accidentally miss a dose, call the transplant team.
- Do not stop taking or change the dose of any medication without prior knowledge and approval of the transplant team.
- Call your transplant team if you are experiencing side effects from your medications, or are having vomiting or diarrhea.
- Never take medications other than those prescribed by your transplant team, including over-the-counter medications or those prescribed by other physicians without first calling the transplant team.
- Store your medications out of reach of small children.
- Store medications in a cool, dry place.
REMEMBER THAT NOT TAKING MEDICATIONS AS PRESCRIBED IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON REASONS FOR TRANSPLANT FAILURE. Therefore, be very careful when taking medications. Call your transplant team with any questions or concerns no matter how small they may seem. Some of your immunosuppressive medicines are dosed by the levels of the drug in your blood. That is why it is important to have your blood tested at the correct time.